FAQs: travelling to Europe after Brexit day on 31st January
The UK is leaving the EU on the 31st January - Brexit day is nearly here, with or without a bong or two from Big Ben. What does the big day mean for UK travellers? And how much does travel to the EU (and beyond) change on February 1st?
What does Brexit Day mean for UK travellers?
The good news for anyone travelling in 2020 is that this year, Brexit changes almost nothing for UK travellers at all. While we're definitely leaving on 31st January, until the end of 2020 we'll be in a transition period - during which our travel rights will be pretty much the same as before Brexit, so holidays between January 2020 and the end of this year shouldn't really be affected by Brexit at all.
So will anything change at all before 2021?
The pound will still go up and down against the Euro, so holidays can get cheaper or more expensive. Probably, the pound will go up if our negotiators signal the UK government is seeking relatively close alignment with the EU, down if they signal a more distant relationship.
Brexit Holiday Checker
Tells us where you're going and the dates you're travelling and we'll do the rest.
Our Brexit Holiday Checker takes the details of your trip and then tells you how Brexit will affect journeys to that destination, whether you're travelling before 31st January, during the rest of 2020 or even after the end of the transition period in 2021 and beyond.
What about the EHIC card?
Until 2021, your European Health Insurance Card ("EHIC") will still work throughout the EU (as well as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland - which are not in the EU but are in the Schengen area). We still recommend you take out good travel insurance every time you head overseas though, the EHIC is no substitute for a good travel insurance policy. And your EHIC won't work in Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or the Vatican, none of which are in the EU, so if you're heading to or even through any of those it's especially important to get your insurance in place.
What about other paperwork?
You won't need any additional paperwork such as visas or visa waivers to travel to the EU, or any additional paperwork to drive in Europe, until 2021.
Book your holiday extras early
It pays to book your airport parking, airport hotel or your lounge as soon as you book your flights. Prices usually go up nearer the date you fly, and last year Holiday Extras saved our airport parking customers £100 each on average when they pre-booked their airport parking instead of paying on the day.Book my hotel and parking today
You keep mentioning 2021. What happens then?
Ah. At that point I'm afraid things become less clear. Since the UK government plans to negotiate a deal with the EU after we leave on 31st January, how easily we travel to the EU after the transition period ends next year depends how those negotiations go and what's in that deal (if any).
By default, people visiting the EU from abroad (that's us, from next year) need a Schengen visa. That costs E60 and lasts 90 days. It's generally considered likely we'll agree a visa waiver deal with the EU, in which case we'll be able to visit any EU or Schengen country using a new visa-waiver system called ETIAS. That visa waiver will last three years and only cost E7, but whether we get access to ETIAS depends on the UK agreeing a reciprocal right for EU travellers to visit the UK visa-free.
People who drive in the EU while visiting from abroad generally need an International Driving Permit ("IDP"). Currently we don't, because we're in the EU, but unless there's something in our deal with the EU that exempts us we'll need one of several sorts of IDP to drive in some European countries from 2021 onwards.
And of course there's those passport and customs queues. It might take longer to get from the plane to your hotel (and vice-versa) after the transition period as UK travellers end up in the "other countries" queue.
How will Brexit affect your holiday?
Everything you need to know about post-Brexit travel in one handy, comprehensive guide.
Our Brexit holiday guide includes details of the costs, driving permits, visas, health insurance, EHIC cards and everything else you need to know now for a trip to Europe. Keep up-to-date with all the latest political developments, and what they'll, mean for your next holiday, by following the Holiday Extras guide.
If travelling to the EU after 2021 is going to be a hassle, where's Brexit-proof?
Everywhere else! There's 195 countries in the world. 27 of them will still be in the EU after Brexit, another 4 - Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein - in the Schengen area but not the EU, and 4 more - Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican - only practically accessible via an EU airport or land border. So that's 160 countries unaffected by Brexit vs 35 that might involve some more paperwork.
Any specific recommendations for someone planning a trip in 2021?
Turkey is outside the EU and Schengen. Travelling there after Brexit should work exactly the same as it does now, with a visa that (including fees) costs $36.05. Turkey is (just) less than four hours from London, has a selection of great beach resorts, and a cuisine very similar to Greece.
Travel to Ireland is governed by a pre-EU arrangement called the Common Travel Area from 1923. If you want a really close, Brexit-proof holiday Ireland's a good bet, and the south-west coast of County Kerry is one of the most beautiful spots on earth.
Iceland is in Schengen but not the EU, and last October when it looked possible we'd leave the EU without a deal at all Iceland signed a bilateral memorandum with the UK to keep free movement between our two countries. Assuming Iceland remains keen to keep travel between us hassle-free, it's reasonable to assume the same sort of deal can be struck this time around again.
So all three are probably Brexit-proof if you want to plan a 2021 holiday now. The Holiday Extras travel guide team even visited Iceland a few years ago - check out our video guide below.
Next article: Planning winter sun in 2020
We're here to help.
Need some help booking all your holiday extras? Want to talk to someone about other options at the airport?
We want to help you travel hassle-free!
If your question is urgent, you can reach us on 0800 316 6130 or +44 1303 815423 when you're calling from abroad. Our contact centre is open from 8am to 9pm on weekdays and 8.30am to 8pm on weekends.